Interview with The Anatomy Collective’s Stephanie Acosta

Culturebot contributor Calamity West sat down with Stephanie Acosta, founding artistic director of Chicago’s Anatomy Collective, a theater company that is dedicated to exploring and developing performance at the intersection of multiple artistic disciplines.

So tell us a little about the The Anatomy Collective.

We’re a performance ensemble that works in the intersections between form and expression. Our focus is always to ask the question, “why?” We never do anything in our process or our product that’s based on simply what we know to be consistent – but what we believe a particular story or idea or narrative requires.

This happens through our collaboration. Every artist has an opportunity to take lead. Everyone puts in their thoughts. But not one of our projects has belonged just one artist. We’re all leading artists and that’s what makes our work stronger.

How do you view your role as an Artistic Director of a collective and what do you strive to bring to the group?

I would say that I’m more of a curator. I work on supporting the creative visions of our artists independently and making sure that they’re being represented. Because the more they are represented the more the Collective as a whole ends up being defined as a group rather than focusing on one vision.

And when you have the opportunity, like we do, to make every element count why wouldn’t you? But to make all of those elements cohesive, you need everyone in the room. We’re all in aid of each other. We’re all leaning on each other so much. If one of us falls, we all do. And in that way we have to trust each other more.

What is The Anatomy Collective currently working on

The current project is Untitled, but we refer to it as the “Here Project” for now.

The first conception is being developed for the Chicago Fringe Festival in September. In the piece we’re exploring ideas of urbanism, construction, space and our place in it. We’re looking at urban cartography, traffic patterns, stream patterns…we will have worked on it for several months come September but we plan on continuing and developing it past that as there’s no end of things to look at when it comes to urbanism. And the city of Chicago lends itself to this kind of growth. There is a constant through line between Chicago and its artists. There is an allowance to do that.

Are you mainly focusing on the Chicago landscape?

We’re looking at several areas but we’re definitely aware that we’re coming into this with our own particular urban center in mind. So, Chicago is definitely the keyhole in which we are seeing everything else, but it isn’t by any means the only thing we’re looking at. We’re exploring issues of privacy through the perception of Chinese communities, we’re looking at urbicide as it’s happening in Laos (just as some examples).

What kind of “why?” questions are you leaning towards?

The idea of “preservation” is something that is so captivating to me right now – particularly the act of inaction to preserve. Especially being here in Chicago with words like “condo” and “gentrification” being on the tip of everyone’s tongue. With the recession we’re surrounded by buildings that are halfway finished standing as these ideas of hope, and what is that? And why is that hope?

It’s something that needs to be shared with our audiences but it’s not something that can just be performed in a traditional, externalized way. So we’re creating an experience that you move through in a similar way to how you take in the community and your urban center.

Can you give us some examples of how you’re developing the work?

We’ve done explorations, as a full ensemble, downtown at rush hour finding how people move through and pass. How buildings sway. We’ve done things like lying down in a busy square at 8:15 to 9 o’clock in the morning and forcing a shift in the pattern in how people move. What rhythms do we hear? What do we see and how can we replicate that while making it something new for the experience we’re trying to create.

It’s a project that’s taking us towards something new as The Anatomy Collective. How we’ve worked for many years is that, every project has its own voice. And every project is an evolution from the project we did before. We want our identity to be wrapped in the knowledge that we’re growing as individual artist and as a group. And that we continue to grow in that way. And this project is doing that for us.

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